Monthly Archives: May 2019

Thursday Reflection 5.23.19

May 23, 2019
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)
There are (more than) a handful of teachings from Jesus that have the same effect as a slap to the face. This verse is one such reminder that living into the Good News is at times so beyond our own power.
Here is a very simple (and simplistic) “for instance.” I know that a very broken little dog adopted us a few years ago. While this Border Collie is smart and agile beyond belief (even though she is now been deemed a “senior” dog!), she races about carrying her own demons. She can be illogical and unpredictable – even with her own rules of engagement.
On Saturday, at the parish fund raiser, my plans had been for Abby to come with me and stroll around, meet y’all in a friendly venue while I keep a watch that she would not partake of any of the food that her internal systems cannot process. But here is why, as the proverb states, we should all have a plan and write it out in pencil.
She hated the experience. She was unruly, aggressive and even barked at some of you whom she knows and (normally) likes. She was overwhelmed with the scent of the food and the sounds of the music and the sight of so many people and other dogs. She was disobedient and disruptive and in the end I had to take her back home because she was having none of this! She kept pulling away (and my shoulder is still sore this morning). And to top it off, after I left her home to return to the event, she cried and whined that I was leaving her behind liked a spoiled two year old not getting her way. As Charlie Brown so often cried: “AUGH!!
Culture defines love in terms of emotion: I love because I feel love for this person, that object or this idea. Every so often we have to take a few moments to reflect on the loveable folk in our lives who at times do very unlovable things. Thus love is more than emotion. Who are the ones who disappoint you? Who is not interested in, may indeed scoff at, your well wishes or other feelings for them? Who are the ones you try to assist but he or she is simply ungrateful and angry all the time.
I asked a parishioner to define “love” last Sunday, and he wisely just smiled and shook his head at me! Loving those who, at times or perhaps even all the time, do not love us, is the hallmark of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Loving our kids when they are always obedient, cheerful or not displaying raging hormones is easy. Loving them all the time – well, it’s a challenge. Loving our friends – easy. Loving our enemies, Jesus teaches, is priceless but without the grace of the Holy Spirit, impossible! It’s even hard to always love a broken little dog who on occasion is utterly unreasonable.  But “if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 5.9.19

Be Aware of What You Cannot See
It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is unsettling. Very early in the morning one day last week, I was already showered, dressed, had my zillionth cup of coffee and was just revisiting (for the nth time) the coming Sunday’s sermon. From upstairs and without warning, I began to hear the definite “protective – as in, don’t mess with me” growl that Abby rarely displays. That murmuring grumble exploded into ferocious barks – her “I’m in charge and will protect you” pitch which ended in her racing downstairs and glaring out the windows into the still dark yard.
Now I have no idea what she heard or smelled or thought she perceived. As far as I know, it may have been a neighbor’s cat, or Godzilla on a detour from Tokyo, or even the first wave of the invasion of mutant zombie killer clowns from planet Zeus! Never did find out. But Abby knew it (they) were out there, and she was warning me to be aware of what I could not see.
Of course animals have such refined senses and most race faster, see clearer, perceive a scent better than we. Our experiential horizon is so framed by what I perceive now and at this moment. So I might text and not worry about the road ahead as I can’t see beyond the curve or the jogger who had stopped to tie her shoe, or the SUV doing 65 in the 30 zone that also happens to be on my side of the road. I can’t see what lies ahead.
I have that extra drink before I drive home because I cannot feel how the alcohol is affecting my reaction time and judgment. I never break the adolescent code and speak the complete truth to parents lest I lose face with peers. I don’t understand consequences follow decisions in the real world. After all, I now have an adult body, therefore I am an adult (?)
One of the hardest of life’s lessons to master is knowing that we don’t see into the darkness that lies beyond the present moment. We don’t have the ability to see, hear, or smell the future consequences of poor choices. It is a blessing when we have a companion (be it life’s partner or canine adoptee) who can honestly warn us to beware of going into the darkness unprepared and foolishly.  And if the voice of reason in your life is your co-worker, your daughter, your spouse, your canonical superior, your hated rival or even the “voice” of God whispering in your conscience: it’s best that you listen. Someone may very well be aware of what you cannot see that lies ahead.
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 5.2.19

Would you write down what your experience means?
There is a quirky show on PBS each week entitled 800 Words! On the surface, it has all the makings of  Serio – Sitcom 101: hapless widowed writer dad has moved his 17 year old daughter and 14 year old son from a major Australian city to this tiny New Zealand backwoods Lewisboro-like town (filled with the oddest assortment of characters this side of Mayberry RFD – for those of you old enough to remember Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney Fife). Each week the protagonist dad deals with situations in which tragedy, hyper sexuality, hubris, adolescent angst, foolish choices or just plain stupid bad luck have immersed him. And while this show will never rival Call the Midwife or even Downton Abby, it does have its moments.
The signature scene at the end of each episode (similar to the family dinners of Blue Bloods) is our “hero” writing his 800 word blog article each week for the newspaper for which he used to work. And it is always 800 words (thus the title). Of course he always succeeds in capturing the point of the episode with this reflection on what he has learned (or should have learned) each week.
So I wonder: In any given week would you be able to reflect upon your experience(s) and capture such meaning(s) for yourself or anyone else in a short space. Would you be honest enough to laugh or cry at “what we have done and what we have failed to do,” and share them for all to observe and critique? Would you be able to take a hard look at not only yourself but also those most dear to you, and try to see everything through the lens of truth rather than the filter of tolerance? Are you willing to learn from what you write, and turn a personal reflection into a launching pad for growth and change that others probably see you need but we never see this in ourselves.
I believe that this process was once called “writing a spiritual journal.”   It may very well be that the somber disciplines of a penitential sense like Lent can give way to something more uplifting and perhaps more challenging. But to capture the meaning of your week: just how many words would it take? And how honest would you be?
Fr. Joe